Friday, 18 May 2007

SLP: Residents speak out against the ALMO and Kazantzis talks rubbish

Today’s South London Press contains four stories about Lambeth Council’s plans for an ALMO. Their “Word on the street” column features interviews with six Lambeth residents from four estates.

Four of those residents are strongly against the proposed ALMO, saying that the council is democratically accountable whereas an ALMO would not be, and because council housing has a proven track record. Even one resident who said he would vote for the ALMO criticised the council for not providing residents with full information to make an informed choice. We say that there should be a fair and balanced debate, with equal funding to both sides of the argument.

The other tenant who said he would vote for the ALMO said he would do so because it can’t be any worse than the council. We say that although the council’s housing service is bad, it will be even worse under an ALMO! Just look at Lewisham, who formed an ALMO last year – their housing service is now facing massive cuts because the government hasn’t given them the extra funding they expected. There is an alternative to ALMO, which will deliver the extra funding our homes need: it is Direct Investment in council housing.

Elsewhere in this edition, Councillor John Kazantzis has the cheek to suggest that a “tiny minority of people, many of whom are not even Lambeth residents” who oppose the ALMO. If he actually came to a Defend Council Housing meeting, or talked to the thousands of residents across the borough who have declared their support for our cause, many of them committing to deliver our leaflets and hold meetings on their estates, he would see that it is not a “tiny minority” of residents who oppose the ALMO, but the vast majority.

What’s more, he claims that we are “hell-bent on wrecking the democratic process and denying tenants and leaseholders their chance of massive investment in their homes”. This is the same man who has used whatever underhand means he has at his disposal to silence the anti-ALMO voice and who for so long tried to deny residents the right to even have a ballot on whether they wanted an ALMO or not! It is only because of intense pressure from residents and staff that the council have caved in and agreed to hold a ballot on the ALMO. Now residents have a chance to show the council exactly what they think about two-stage privatisation.

We too want massive investment in council homes – but not at the price of risking the future existence of council housing for us and for future generations. Residents must unite in fighting for the Fourth Option. There is intense pressure on Gordon Brown to find a solution to Britain’s housing crisis and a real possibility that a change in government policy will allow councils to directly invest in their housing stock.

The aggressive, demeaning tone's of Kazantzis' "contribution" to the ALMO debate is a fine demonstration of how low our own elected councillors will stoop in order to try to undermine those who want a far and balanced debate on the real issues. Don't they realise how pathetic they look?